Unions’ Minimum Start Argument Fails

Aero-Care Flight Support Pty Ltd re Aero-Care Collective Agreement 2012 – [2013] FWCA 965 – 12 February 2013

Just because a modern award requires a four minimum start for employees, it doesn’t mean the Fair Work Commission will not approve an enterprise agreement with a lesser minimum start. As one employer found out though, if you want to achieve that, you have to be prepared for a fight.

The company supplies a wide range of support services to airlines all around Australia, and unremarkably, in some ports, the time needed to provide those services is limited. So the company and employees agreed to a three hour minimum start which in many cases is more than enough to service an aircraft and turn it around to meet timetable scheduling.

But the TWU and the ASU objected to this productivity benefit and mounted a concerted attack on the employer’s enterprise agreement, despite the fact that overwhelmingly, the employees had supported the agreement.

The company argued successfully that the unions’ focus on the three hour starts completely overlooked the nature of the “better off overall test”, pointing out the many benefits the agreement offered. The Commission agreed, saying that on balance, the shorter minimum starts were outweighed by other conditions.